I wasn’t the only person visiting the beautiful city of York last weekend. The city was over-run with Vikings. I knew they were Vikings on account of their strange garb. You don’t see that many people
wandering around in blankets with horned helmets on their heads.
I understand - and I am quite disappointed about it, to be honest - that it is very unlikely that
the Vikings who descended on York around 866 actually wore those stylish helmets with the horns. Wikipedia tells me, loftily, that “horns tend to be impractical on a combat helmet.” Never having worn a combat helmet or, for that matter, having
been caught up in any kind of combat - unless one counts occasional skirmishes with Mr B over Minor Matters of Contention - I am unqualified to comment. What a spoil-sport Wikipedia is. I have, nevertheless, forgiven it on learning that the invasion of York
was led by one Ivar the Boneless. You can imagine the sheer fear that the knowledge of the Boneless One’s coming must have struck into the hearts of the inhabitants of York back in the day.
We didn’t rush out into the city on Saturday morning; rather we enjoyed a leisurely time before and over breakfast. I floated around the house in my posh new pyjamas and dressing gown like a glamorous (but unlikely)
film star. My fellow grandmother, known to her younger grandchildren as “Da” said she reckoned I could even get away with wearing my PJs out of an evening, presumably should I go clubbing or something. Bearing in mind my only evenings out these
days tend to be meetings of the Parochial Church Council, I rather think I shan’t be putting this theory to the test any time soon.
Once we were all showered,
dressed and breakfasted, we headed into the city centre, determined to find some walls to walk. I do love a Walled City, don’t you? I have walked many walls in my time, the most special being the walls of Dubrovnik. I will always remember dragging Our
Boy all round the walls in the heat of the midday sun; we were about to descend the steps to ground level when all at once every bell, in every church across the city started to chime twelve noon. It was one of those spine-tingling holiday moments which remain
in the memory forever. York’s walls don’t go all the way round like Dubrovnik’s, which is a pity, especially as this means climbing up and down more than once, but they do offer splendid views from a number of vantage points. We took (ad)vantage
of them all.
When Mr B and I visited York it was before the winding alleyway known as The Shambles became associated with Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter films.
I think I probably enjoyed the experience of our Rambles In The Shambles more when it was a wizard-free zone. Still, there was no denying the excitement of the crowds of Potter Fans swarming around The Shop That Must Not Be Named.
I mistakenly thought that the Printer’s Devil (Mr B was a printer and we delighted in discovering the devil on our first visit to York) was to be found in The Shambles, so leading
my family a merry dance up and down the road as we tried to locate it. Eventually we gave up until Da went into a newsagent’s for her Saturday newspaper where we saw a postcard depicting the “Stonegate Devil.” We had to retrace our steps
to find Stonegate (it turned out we had missed the devil by a mere few yards first time around) but the Youngest of the Darling Daughters didn’t want me to be disappointed. Her fella, on the other hand, had to say that he was distinctly underwhelmed.
He is nothing if not honest.
In one of the city squares we came across an escapologist, strapped around with many a chain, bolt and cuff. We would have moved along
but his spiel was engagingly captivating (how appropriate, I hear you say.) He cajoled members of his audience into helping him out - even the most reticent falling for his banter. We watched as he wriggled his way out of his chains to a count of sixty seconds
- we all joined in the final countdown. He was free! And on his face an expression I recognised so very well.
My thanks to Carers Support West Sussex who awarded
me a wellbeing grant to cover my train fares, accommodation and theatre ticket; thanks, too, to the Baldwin family - Karen, Dave, Hazel and the Really Rather Wonderful “Da” - for being the very best of company; and special thanks to grandson Jack
for making me swell with pride watching you on stage in Legally Blonde - for one blissful weekend in York, you all, in your own ways, helped me execute my very own Great Escape.